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Vigneault confident he can coach Flyers to quick turnaround

Excited by combination of veterans, young talent after year away from NHL

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Alain Vigneault says the one thing missing from his coaching resume is winning the Stanley Cup, and the Philadelphia Flyers give him the best chance to check that box off his personal bucket list.

Vigneault, who was hired by the Flyers on Monday, replacing Scott Gordon, spent this season out of work after being fired by the New York Rangers on April 7, 2018.

He said the time away gave him perspective and renewed motivation.

"It put a lot of things in perspective for myself about how much I love the game, how much I love to coach, and how much I need one more thing," Vigneault said during his introductory press conference Thursday. "In my bucket list, I need one more thing: I need to win a Stanley Cup. I've come close twice. ... I think this will be the right one."

Video: New Flyers HC Alain Vigneault gives opening statement

Vigneault coached the Vancouver Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011 and the Rangers to the Final in 2014, but lost each time.

The Flyers (37-37-8) missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fourth time in seven seasons, finishing 16 points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference. But Vigneault sees the right pieces in place for a rapid turnaround.

"There's some solid youth with a lot of upside here that is coming into its own," he said. "There's great goaltending, being one of those youth pieces. There's a solid core group that in my mind needs the right direction. And you've got the combination also of some solid veteran players that have been in the League a few years that can still contribute at a high level."

General manager Chuck Fletcher shares Vigneault's view that the Flyers are close to being consistent playoff contenders, and said he has the coach that can get them there.

"The Flyers are a great opportunity," Fletcher said. "This is a premium job in the National Hockey League, and we're set up where we should have an opportunity to get better quickly. We need more good players, but we have a lot of good players. It's not like you have to gut this thing. We have [salary] cap space, we have [draft] picks. We have a really good staff. We have the ability to get better quickly if we all do our job. I think he recognizes that."

One key for Vigneault will be helping develop a roster that featured seven players 23 and under this season: goalie Carter Hart, 20; forwards Nolan Patrick, 20, Travis Konecny, 21, and Oskar Lindblom, 22; and defensemen Ivan Provorov, 22, Travis Sanheim, 22, and Robert Hagg, 23. There will be more young players pushing for roster spots next season, among them 19-year-old forward Joel Farabee, the No. 14 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, and forward Morgan Frost, the No. 27 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft who turns 20 on May 14.

Video: Flyers new HC Alain Vigneault on coaching philosophy

Vigneault was fired by the Rangers as they began rebuilding around younger players, giving the impression that he might not be the right coach for a youth-filled roster. But he said playing time will be merit-based.

"There's not one coach that will not play a player that will permit him to win," Vigneault said. "I firmly believe that talent has no age. If a guy who's 19 can step in and help the Flyers win and be competitive, he's going to play. Talent has no age."

Vigneault will begin learning about his players young and old when he coaches Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Championship. Hart and center Sean Couturier will be on the team, and could be joined by Sanheim and forward Claude Giroux. The tournament runs May 10-26 in Slovakia.

On Vigneault's coaching staff with Canada is Dave Hakstol, who was fired as Flyers coach Dec. 17 and replaced by Gordon. Also, Ron Hextall, who was fired as general manager Nov. 26, is part of Canada's management staff. But Vigneault said he won't be consulting them about his new job.

"I'm not going to ask Dave or Ron Hextall anything about players with the Flyers," Vigneault said. "I've said to Chuck, I want to come here with everybody fresh, clean, no preconceived notions. Players are going to come and show me what they can do. Those would be two great sources for me to ask, but I'd rather trust my eyes, get to know them, and get a personal feel for who they are and what they can do and what they can bring."

In 16 seasons with the Rangers, Canucks and Montreal Canadiens, Vigneault is 648-435-98 with 35 ties. He's tied for 12th in NHL history in wins, and his teams have made the playoffs 11 times, including nine straight from 2009-17.

"That's a hallmark of top coaches," Fletcher said. "I think going nine consecutive years making the playoffs, to me, that's where you want to be. I'm a big believer in trying to be competitive every year. Maybe not every year you're perfectly positioned to win the Cup. But if you get in year after year after year, you're going to give yourself some shots."

Vigneault said the Flyers have a chance to shoot pretty high next season.

"I feel that the Flyers are a very good team," he said. "With the proper direction, proper mindset, proper culture and people working together will be a very good team in the near future. ... This is without a doubt one of the best franchises in the National Hockey League. In my mind, and after talking to a lot of people who have been in the game that know this franchise, this team is on the upswing. We're here to work on winning and bringing a Cup."

Photos courtesy of Philadelphia Flyers

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